Russian River Daytrip

I’m the wrong person to write a post about Russian River. I really am. I can’t do it justice, and for that, I’m sorry. I can, however, tell you that the Russian River brewpub is located on a quiet street in a cute downtown area – quiet and cute in the middle of a Tuesday, that is.

Russian River

As promised, it was considerably warmer in Santa Rosa than in SF, so we were happy to enter the cool and dim interior, and to face down an intimidating board of options. On the left, the sour Belgian-style ales with religious names befitting the seriousness of the beers:

One of Everything

On the right, everything else, including Pliny the Elder, rated the #2 beer in the world by Beer Advocate (Pliny the Younger is #3):

One of Everything

What to do but to have one of everything? OK, we never would’ve been able to get back to SF had we actually done that – but we did make a fair pass at the Belgians – sour and boozy, perfect on a hot afternoon. And oh, did you notice the prices? $3.75-6.75 for a pint of the Belgians. Outrageously good prices for outrageously good beers.

Beer Mecca?

Food was really necessary, and Kiya said that we had to try the pizza bites. Basically: take a pizza of an undetermined size. Chop it up into bite size pieces, toppings and all. Serve with a wee cup of marinara to happy drinkers. Nibble an dunk your way into a happy greasy pizza coma.

Like I said – I can’t do Russian River justice, but perhaps Shane will weigh in with more information about the beers. That said, he was in a jolly place when we left, so perhaps he can’t do it any more justice than I can.

A Man in his Element

After Russian River, the remainder of our daytrip hardly bears mention. We stopped for an espresso at Flying Goat on our way out of town, then stopped for adequate beer at Moylan’s in Novato. As we drove back into the city, Kiya asked if they could take us to just one more place, and so we ended up at Bender’s, a grubby dive-y bar reminiscent of the Galaxy Hut – which, if you know us at all, you know is a high compliment.

Among the things not allowed at Bender’s are fisticuffs:
Bender's doesn't put up w/shit
Photo by The Mitzikin Revolution

Among the things on offer are a damned good Bloody Mary – including a beef stick! – and Fernet, which we all inexplicably tossed back while Shane and Kiya played pool. It was a great way to end a great day.

If you go:

Russian River Brewing Co
725 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 545-2337

There’s only one reason you’d make the trip here from SF, and that is the beer. Fortunately you can get a damned good pizza (or calzone or basket of pizza bites) while you’re there.

Flying Goat Coffee
10 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 575-1202

An out of the way little coffee shop in downtown Santa Rosa. A good place to sober up with a single origin espresso after your lunch of pizza bites and Pliny.

Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant
15 Rowland Way
Novato, CA 94945
(415) 898-4677

Not really worth the trip unless you need another beer after Russian River. Which you probably won’t.

806 S Van Ness Ave (between 19th & 20th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 824-1800

Grubby, dive-y neighborhood bar of the best possible sort. I hear they have good food, but their Bloody Mary was nearly dinner enough for me.

Four Barrel

Kiya had quite the day planned for us, and it went something like this: Coffee. Driving. Beer. Coffee. Driving. Beer. He and Demitra picked us up at 8:15, swearing that the surprisingly blustery weather would let up as soon as we got out of the city, but before we could get there, we needed coffee.

Four Barrel Coffee
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Four Barrel Coffee is seriously intense. Located in a former Hell’s Angels clubhouse, Four Barrel features the sort of custom work that indicates they’re seriously intense about their coffee. For example, this beautiful piece of equipment sits on a table that can be raised, lowered, or rotated 180 degrees depending on the height and preferred working location of the barista:

Four Barrel's custom-designed three-group La Marzocco Mistral
Photo by Premshree Pillai

There’s a separate counter exclusively for pour-over coffees:

Four Barrel Coffee
Photo by niallkennedy

And on the other side of the main counter is the roasting equipment. I wish I could tell you specifically which coffees we tried, but remembering things that happened before I’ve had coffee can be difficult. I can, however, tell you that our Dynamo donuts were a real knockout. I had the chocolate spice – a doughy chocolate donut with cinnamon and chipotle – and Shane had the orange blossom, which rated as the highlight of the day for him, despite the rest of the culinary adventures to follow. If we could merge the flavor and character of these donuts with the crispity crunch of Washtenaw Dairy donuts, well, we’d both weigh 400 pounds.

probat, macc, dynamo
Photo by tonx

Four Barrel embodies the “Unplug, Drink, Go” approach to coffeeshops recently described in the New York Times. There’s seating, but it’s not super comfortable. There are tables, but they’re not wide enough for your laptop and books and stuff. Which works out well, because there are no outlets for your laptop anyway. What’s that on the wall? That’s a stenciled-on outlet. Just try to plug in your laptop.

Fully caffeinated, we hopped in the car and headed to Russian River – but that’s a story for another post.

If you go:
Four Barrel Coffee
375 Valencia St (between 14th & 15th)
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 252-0800

Have a donut and an espresso and leave happy.